With the previous three entries as context, the question then arises regarding what church should actually look like. If we've seen how church can be misused, then how can church be implemented properly? How is it re-imagined to be in line with what God intended?
The first mention of the church in the Bible is in Matthew 16:18. Jesus talking to His disciples and referencing Peter (or Peter's statement, depending on your denomination) states "on this rock I will build my church." The word used here is ekklesia. The "called out ones." The idea of an assembly of people. A gathering of people called out from their homes to a place for a special purpose.
When church is used in the New Testament, it's not referring to a building or location. It's referring to the assembly of God's people. Paul's letters to Ephesus, to Corinth, to Galatia, then, are referring to the assembly of Christians (or followers of "the Way") in that particular location.
We see over and over again, that our emphasis should be on the people, our fellow followers of Christ. With that in the right frame of reference, our view of church becomes radically different.
We remember that ...
Church is not a place, it's the people
It's not a designated time on Sunday
It's not one specific style.
It's not the only place where worship occurs or where teaching of the word occurs.
It is something that goes out, not something you come to.
It's much bigger than most of us think and encompasses believers across the globe.
It's not about us.
It's not for us.
It's about the One that we worship.
There's no specific outline that a Christian meeting must follow anywhere in scripture. There are indications of the types of activities early Christians undertook, but there is nothing prescriptive about these passages. Definitely no one formula for getting it "right."
Church could happen on an impromptu basis. "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20. A shared meal with fellow believers - the Church has gathered. A home Bible study - that's church. Christian worship concert, definitely church.
The Church sings and exalts the name of our Creator. It Lifts His Name on High. "...addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:19-21. And look, hymns and praise choruses (spiritual songs) are both covered!
The Church uses its gifts to bless one another. "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." 1 Corinthians 14:26. What a different world we would live in if the universal Church were more interested in building each other up than tearing down the others outside our particular four walls. Put another way, when one local "church" group hurts in your area, all churches in that area are suffering. If one is struggling, the whole Church is struggling.
The Church corrects each other in love. "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17. The key to this is love. Love covers all the commandments. And this should be seen as an intervention, not a judgment. It's trying to hep family before they hurt themselves or others. It's what comes with caring about your fellow believers.
When we can remember these, we get a lot closer to that Acts 2 church. The kind of church that ate together. Smiled and laughed together. Cried and suffered together. Shared everything they had and took care of any needs - together.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
That's the Church that is alive. That is compelling and attractive. That's when people notice
If you'd like to further dig into church reimagined, I recommend Stonepoint's series on the topic here. The two previous sermons are uploaded here to get caught up.
If you are in the Wills Point area and would like to find an assembly of believers to connect and grow with, to live life with and try to find that Acts 2 experience, and would like to learn more about Stonepoint, you can find out more here.